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Brookline residents squawk about turkeys

BROOKLINE — Karen Halvorson was walking down Tappan Street about a month ago when she spotted three turkeys flying up against passing cars. Then, she said, the birds turned on her.

Halvorson, who is 64 and 5 feet tall, said the turkeys surrounded her and the dominant bird flew at her head and scratched her neck, when she tried to duck.

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She said she did not know what to do, and was rescued when a passing motorist stopped and threw open a car door to let her jump in.

“I’m not sure what would have happened to me had she not stopped,” Halvorson said.

On Thursday night, Halvorson and about 30 people brought their growing concerns about aggressive turkeys in town to a meeting at the Brookline Public Safety Building. Selectwoman Nancy Daly said the turkeys — especially three hostile birds — have been frightening residents around Aspinwall Hill in recent weeks.

Neighbors told police, town officials, and a representative from the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife that the birds have been attacking people and cars, and often are not scared away by loud noises or being sprayed with water.

Steve Bruno, the postal carrier for the Aspinwall Hill neighborhood, said he has had frequent run-ins with turkeys, especially the three aggressive ones.

“Probably every two weeks they come after me,” Bruno said.

While some voiced their support for protecting the turkeys and just trying to scare away the troublemakers, other neighbors asked police to shoot the aggressive birds. One man in the audience asked whether he could spray-paint the problem turkeys so police could easily identify them.

Police Chief Daniel O’Leary said firing guns in the neighborhood is not an option, but he vowed that the department would find a way to address the aggressive birds, and especially the three miscreant tom turkeys.

“We’ll work to do something to take care of those turkeys that are the aggressive ones because they shouldn’t be going after humans,” O’Leary said.

The meeting Thursday came after Brookline police said they have seen an increase in recent weeks in the number of reports of turkeys blocking streets and sidewalks and of being aggressive.

Pierre Verrier, Brookline’s animal control officer, said he has also been attacked by turkeys that ripped his pants. He said the calls about the birds have increased in frequency.

“Every day for the past couple of months the calls have been coming in,” Verrier said.

David Scarpitti, an upland game bird biologist for Fisheries and Wildlife, said turkeys were killed off in Massachusetts in the 19th century, but have come back nicely since being reintroduced in the early 1970s. He said the turkey population is estimated at 30,000 to 35,000 statewide.

Scarpitti said that as the turkey population has expanded into more urban and populated areas, more problems with aggressive behavior have been arising.

He said loud noises and water should help drive away the turkeys.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.
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